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The Emotional, Sloppy, Manic World of the Safdie Brothers


You've heard of the Warner brothers and the Baldwin brothers.....well, make way for the Safdie brothers, the directorial team of Benny and Josh Safdie, American indie's dynamic duo. The BAMcinématek located at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York has turned the asylum over to the inmates for the eclectic film series titled Emotional Sloppy Manic Cinema: Films Directed and Selected by Benny and Josh Safdie.

The series, a collection of 19 films and 13 shorts produced and curated by the brothers, runs from August 12 to 24. Not yet 30, the New York-based Safdie brothers have crafted an impressive portfolio of movies about misfits, malingerers and madmen, which reveals them to be a refreshingly bold voice.
BAMcinématek is presenting the first-ever retrospective of their work to date, along with a selection of films that have influenced them.

Natives of New York, the Safdies grew up with a father that videotaped constantly, cultivating in young Benny and Josh an appreciation for filmic storytelling. After attending Boston University, they began a collective with some of their classmates called Red Bucket Films. The handheld improvisational spirit and “found” aesthetic they developed inspired their first feature THE PLEASURE OF BEING ROBBED (2008) which screens this evening. The film focuses on a young woman (newcomer Eleonore Hendricks) who relates to others by relieving them of their belongings. The film was selected as the closing night film at the 2008 Cannes Directors’ Fortnight and has been a worldwide festival hit ever since.

Hendricks and others worked in a collective manner on their next film, DADDY LONGLEGS, a loving portrait of a divorced father with two young boys, modeled after their own father. The film features an outstanding performance by Ronald Bronstein who received critical accolades for his role as the hapless paterfamilias, who works as a projectionist and is struggling to make the most out of the two weeks out of the year that he gets with his sons. The film returned to Cannes for the Directors Fortnight under the title GO GET SOME  ROSEMARY, which comes from a directive that Bronstein’s character gives his boys.

Described as latter-day Cassavetes (times two), the duo and their Red Bucket Films collaborators, are creating an engaging indie style (don't call it mumblecore) that is breathing life into the low-budget independent genre that sometimes seems on life support. (unless you can cast Julianne Moore and Annette Bening as engaging lesbians).

Aside from their own work, the Safdies are self-described film geeks and the series contains films, some famous, most obscure, that have influenced their aesthetic. They have found inspiration in the films of Robert Bresson (A MAN ESCAPED, 1956), Jean Vigo (ZERO DE CONDUITE, 1933), Werner Herzog (NO ONE WILL PLAY WITH ME, 1976), Francois Truffaut (SMALL CHANGE, 1976), Wim Wenders (ALICE IN THE CITIES, 1974), Woody Allen (HUSBANDS AND WIVES, 1992), Olivier Assayas (COLD WATER, 1994) and Jafar Panahi (THE MIRROR, 1997)....all of which will be shown. 

Other Safdie selection highlights are the underrated STRAIGHT TIME by Ulu Grosbard, featuring a terrific performance by Dustin Hoffman as an ex-con trying to go straight and MIKEY AND NICKY, a bizarre buddy film starring John Cassavetes and Peter Falk, directed by the reliably quirky Elaine May.

For a complete listing of the films, emotional, sloppy and manic as can be, visit:

Sandy Mandelberger, Film New York Editor


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Mandelberger Sandy
(International Media Resources)

The Ultimate Guide to the New York Film, Video and New Media Scene.

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